Work in Sports
All for one
Desperate Sixers hope to salvage one game
Posted: Thursday May 11, 2000 10:02 PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A week ago, the Philadelphia 76ers were thinking about a championship. Now, they're playing for pride.
On the verge of being swept out of the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight season by Indiana, the 76ers returned to practice Thursday with a simple mission: Win a game.
"We're not thinking about winning the series," forward Matt Geiger said. "We're focusing on Saturday and going from there. We're facing two sweeps two years in a row. We got to put it all on the line."
Philadelphia blew an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead against Indiana on Wednesday as the Pacers took control of the series with a 97-89 victory. Game 4 is Saturday.
"I'm not going to pack it in," Allen Iverson said. "I'm not ready for summer vacation. It's a terrible feeling to sit home and watch another team when you feel you can be out there."
The feeling is worse for the 76ers this season because, to a man, they felt they could compete against Indiana. Last year's sweep was tempered by the fact that it was Philadelphia's first trip to the playoffs in eight seasons and the first-round victory over Orlando was a major accomplishment.
"This is worse because we had so much confidence," forward Tyrone Hill said. "We knew in our hearts and our minds that we can beat Indiana."
Geiger still can't admit the Pacers are a better team.
"Eventually, you have to be realistic," he said. "Last year we felt they were better. This year we didn't believe it. It's hard to say they are, but they're playing better."
The 76ers had high expectations, especially after acquiring Toni Kukoc from the Chicago Bulls in February. Kukoc was supposed to be the second option the Sixers desperately needed on offense to complement Iverson.
Instead, he's been invisible. The 6-foot-10 swingman has 20 points in three games, including four points in Game 3.
"We got another year of experience," Iverson said. "We got Toni. I'm better. The team is better. But we're not playing well enough. It's the same thing."
Indiana coach Larry Bird also expected a tougher series. He's very surprised to be leading 3-0.
"Coming into the series, I thought if we could rebound the ball, we could stay close and have an opportunity to win the game," Bird said. "I knew during the regular season Philly had 44 games decided by six points or less, so I thought if we could stay close, we would have an opportunity to win."
The Pacers took the day off Thursday as had been scheduled prior to their Game 3 victory. Bird said he's disappointed with the layoff between games, but hopes it allows the injured Pacers to heal.
Forward Austin Croshere has a sore right foot that limited him to two minutes Wednesday. He might return Saturday.
Indiana, which beat Milwaukee in five games in the first round, hopes to close out the series and rest while awaiting the New York Knicks-Miami Heat winner.
"This is not over," said Reggie Miller, who scored 29 points in Game 3, including 13 in the fourth quarter. "I know everyone thinks it is, but it's not. That is a very talented team.
"I think we breathed a sigh of relief after the Milwaukee series. Some teams have better matchups with certain teams and I think we have trouble with Milwaukee because of their athleticism and because of the big three who can score. We just match up better with Philadelphia."
Indiana was one basket away from being eliminated by the Bucks. They are one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the fifth time in six years and the third straight season.
"They've been a talented team and we haven't done the things we can," Sixers coach Larry Brown said.